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How can I expand my dental business?

By: Bill Wortman

 

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How can I expand my dental business?

 
Answer: Dentists market their practices in various ways, some of which are not expensive. In addition to Yellow Pages, dental professionals use referrals, professional networking, print, radio, direct mail, and other forms of advertising. We do not know how long you have been in business; however, companies with years of operating and marketing history should periodically review their marketing programs and results, their target audience, and status of their competition to determine what has worked successfully in the past and what has changed in their business, industry, and market demographics. The place to start assessing your marketing plans is to review how you have marketed in the past and what has worked successfully. For example, you may only need to increase the frequency or level of your more successful marketing activities to generate more sales. However, you may need to diversify your target audience and/or try new marketing and advertising methods to reach more target customers in your current trade area or to expand into a larger geographic trade area.
                                        
Generally, a very effective marketing strategy for dental professionals is word-of-mouth, or satisfied customer referrals; however, new dentists may have to be more aggressive with direct mail and other marketing activities to build a customer base. Also, an important element for cost effective advertising is a clear definition of your particular target audience in order to consistently reach your target customers with marketing messages.
 
In addition, advertising methods are different for short-term sales increases than for long-term brand building. Advertising methods are influenced by the industry, local competition, target customers, available capital, customer base and other factors. The following are marketing comments and considerations for your business:
 
Participate in any local Welcome Wagon or similar service to reach new residents:

Consider Internet business listings and making effective use of your website:
You can use an Internet search engine to research how your industry uses directories and other Internet marketing. The following are example websites:

Customer referrals: Customer referrals are an excellent way to develop a professional service business. You should continue to encourage customer referrals and can consider a referral fee program – free or discounted service, etc.
 
Direct mail: Direct mail is generally used by dentists to reach local consumers and possibly offer new customer discounts or other promotions.
 
Free publicity: There are often opportunities for free publicity or public relations in local markets by providing public interest stories to local newspapers that lead back to your product or service. Being a long-term business owner in the area, providing a niche or unique service, business of the month and other factors can qualify you for free publicity in your market. Companies should certainly take advantage of press releases and other media public relations that they can obtain for free, by bartering or on an economical basis. You can check with local newspapers, radio, and TV stations regarding free publicity.
 
Local networking: Speaking engagements and networking activities in local schools, churches and elsewhere can establish contact with youth, businesses, medical professionals, and other organizations to generate referrals for your target customers.
 
Awards programs: You can consider whether an awards program like the following example may be effective for your dental practice:

Effective on-site signage
 
Review what marketing methods are being used by other local dentists
 
Social networking websites: Business networking and other social websites and blogs are very popular and some may be able to reach target customers (individuals or businesses) and create interest in certain business products or services. There is considerable competition, however, so business networking and marketing results will vary by situation based on various factors. We do not have any quantitative results on the business marketing success rates of the many networking websites. You would have to research and then test this type of advertising in order to determine if it reaches your target audience or otherwise can be effective for your business. These websites generally have explanatory information for business advertisers on their websites:

Charitable services: Though the low profit margins are a consideration, some dentists provide free or discounted services in affiliation with government health/family services agencies, charitable organizations, or churches that can add incremental fees/profits and possibly generate long-term patients directly or indirectly through referrals.
 
Marketing plan: Generally, the best way for a new or existing business to evaluate marketing options, formulate a strategy and develop a budget is with a marketing plan.

Published: October 15, 2013
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